Inspired by the characterful worlds of directors such as Wes Anderson and Taika Waititi, Visbii’s colourful illustrations play with personality and the physical form to create delightfully unexpected results.
With a client list that includes everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Women’s Wear Daily, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the illustrator – whose real name is Amber Day – has been honing her craft for years. In fact, she spent a decade working as an art director, storyboard artist and set stylist before discovering her love for illustration in 2016.
Day moved from her home city of LA to Bali in order to spend more time illustrating, but soon after was involved in a motorbike accident and temporarily lost most of the movement in her drawing arm, leading her to reassess what she wanted from her career. “During my recovery I developed a growing interest in the creative process that quickly became an obsession,” she says.
“My obsession has led me around the world in search of true makers and shakers in their industry, and eventually sparked Visbii: an illustrated side project created to combat visual perfectionism, inspire self discovery, and encourage artists to trust their instincts just a little more.”
Initially, Day was just creating illustrations under her own name, with a focus on more organic shapes and colour palettes. But she quickly found herself frustrated with a style that felt like a watered down version of her true self.
“Then early last year I read a study about how some people have dualistic mindsets, and instead of trying to find a middle ground, I realised I needed to completely separate myself creatively and work from both ends of the spectrum,” says the illustrator.
“The Amber Day style is much more practical and realistic, while Visbii is more experimental and humorous, adhering to my technical left and my imaginative right.”
The bold colours and experimental shapes of Day’s work as Visbii became even more heightened as the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, inspiring her to exaggerate the proportions of her characters beyond expectations. “I didn’t realise it at the time but I was drawing a reflection of how I felt the people around me were behaving during the early stages of the pandemic,” she explains.
“Almost like pandemic Darwinism, our hands had grown larger so we could grab more supplies for ourselves, and our brains smaller the more time we spent watching the news and putting critical thinking to the wayside. I’ve always gotten through tough situations by finding humour in them, and I think Visbii was my way of coping with 2020. I’m glad it’s found a way to stick around so far.”
Honing this more distinctive style has led to a spate of high-profile commissions for Day over the last year, including an illustration for the Wall Street Journal featuring monster-sized gummy bears and a project for Women’s Wear Daily, which she describes as “the most epic brief I’ve ever received”.
“They asked for a fashion executive in New York, in the middle of an earthquake, about to get swept away by a tsunami, running from a meteor, with a satellite getting fried by a solar flare in the distance. Oh, and she needed to be wearing a mask. I couldn’t help but find the humour in that last line and I absolutely loved how extreme the situation was, as it was a direct reflection of what we were all feeling at the time,” Day adds.
As for what’s next for the illustrator, she is currently riding out the rest of the pandemic back in Bali (“I thought it would be a great way to reset creatively from the last few months in America”). If the last 12 months have taught her anything though, she says, it is not to plan too far ahead.
“For the first time in my life I’m letting the work determine my future,” says Day. “My creativity knows where it wants to go and I think the best thing we can do as artists is to get out of the way and let it show us how to live our best lives. I believe true happiness comes from being spontaneous, and I can say in full confidence that I’ve never been happier!”